Since 2002 you pay in Madagascar in Ariary (MGA) and no longer in Franc Malgache (FMG). Similar to how a few people in Germany still convert to Deutsche Mark, some Madagascans still write FMG on their price boards – the conversion works as follows: 5 FMG = 1 MGA. If a price on the street seems unrealistically high, it is worth asking for the currency. Hotels and restaurants now generally charge in Ariary and may offer a menu second card with FMG.
The largest Malagasy banknote has a value of 20,000 Ariary (depending on the exchange rate 4-6 Euro), it has only been in circulation since 2017. The now second-largest is worth 10,000 Ariary, below that there are 1000, 500, and 200 Ariary notes. The smallest bill is worth only 100 Ariary (less than 5 cents). The associated coins have values of 50, 20,10, 5, 4, 2, and 1 Ariary. What is special about Malagasy coinage is that 1 Ariary is not equal to 100 smaller units, Iraimbilanja, as is usually the case. Instead, 1 Ariary is equal to 5 Iraimbilanja. The two smallest coins are 1 and 2 Iraimbilanja. Coin money is only used at all in large cities in Madagascar. As a rule, you pay everywhere with banknotes. If you come to more remote areas or small villages, the bills sometimes look so worn that you can only guess the color. Even with such bills, you can pay in Madagascar without any problems. In the countryside, you should carry small bills with you. In some markets, it can happen that nobody can change 10,000 Ariary.
Since 2020, the old banknotes used until 2017 can no longer be used in normal payment transactions. However, it is still possible to exchange the old bills for new, valid ones in Malagasy banks.
Currency exchange and payment options
In Europe, it is not possible to change euros into the Malagasy currency. However, you can exchange money directly at the airport Ivato in Antananarivo: Either at the designated counter in the waiting area of the international flights or outside at the bank directly opposite the parking lot. You will then receive a brown paper bag with the exchanged money, from which you should immediately remove the money and distribute it in your luggage.
Currency exchange is otherwise possible in cities at the various banks (Bank of Africa, BNI, BFV Société generale, BMOI) or at special agencies (e.g. SOCIMAD). Some hotels also offer currency exchange, but usually at a worse exchange rate. Ariary can only be returned at the airport in Antananarivo and some banks in the capital. Only even amounts are exchanged, as the counters do not have European coins. So you’ll get change back in Ariary.
Cash, credit cards, cheques
Cash is king! This is all the more true in Madagascar. In principle, everything is paid in cash.
Credit cards are accepted in Madagascar only in a few hotels, restaurants, and bars heavily frequented by tourists – and if so, then rather Visa than Mastercard. This is mainly due to the fact that the cards can often not be checked by the Madagascans due to the lack of functioning landlines. ATMs for withdrawing cash are only available in the capital Antananarivo and other major cities on the island. The amount of cash that can be withdrawn is severely limited (usually 400,000 Ariary) and not all machines work. Many ATMs also have a weekly limit on the amount of money that can be withdrawn, which is usually less than € 500. Mastercard is only accepted by BNI.
Checks are uncommon in Madagascar and, similar to credit cards, cannot be used to pay in restaurants, hotels, and stores. Transfers to Madagascar are now very easy via Western Union. Money can be transferred via app for a fee of € 3.90, but usually at an unfavorable exchange rate. The beneficiary can collect the transferred money in Ariary at a Western Union counter.